Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tolstoy and Da Vinci thought we'd all be vegetarians by now

Tolstoy, one of the most clear-eyed observers of humanity ever, once wrote that mankind is
"passing more and more from carnivorous habits to vegetable food, and is also deliberately following the same path in a movement which shows evident strength, and which is growing larger and larger -- viz. vegetarianism.  That movement has during the last ten years advanced more and more rapidly.  More and more books and periodicals on this subject appear every year; one meets more and more people who have given up meat..."
Da Vinci also predicted a moral progression.
"The time will come when men such as I shall look upon the murder of animals as they know look upon the murder of men."
Two of the great geniuses of history both believed, over time, the moral evolution of man would eventually lead to the renunciation of slaughtering animals for human consumption and pleasure.  But it hasn't gotten any better for animals since Tolstoy and Da Vinci recorded their hopes.  Today, people still unthinkingly, sometimes eagerly, inflict unimaginable pain on living creatures just so they can enjoy a tasty meal, a bathroom drawer full of personal hygiene products or, in the case of hunting, an amusing pastime.  What led Tolstoy and Da Vinci to think things would improve for animals?  Maybe they were so horrified by their contemporaries' mistreatment of animals that their only recourse was to imagine a slow but inevitable moral progression.  Or maybe they were deluded by the awareness of their own genius.  They knew they were far ahead of their time artistically, intellectually and, it stood to reason, morally, too.  The truth about the evil of killing animals was self-evident to them, and they assumed it would one day be just as self-evident to all of mankind.  Unfortunately, it hasn't worked out that way.